Australia's growing ICT trade deficit has has hit $21 billion, according to the 2007 ICT Trade Update released today by the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
The report shows that in 2006, Australia's ICT exports were worth $5.7 billion, with significant gains in ICT services exports, while imports cost $26.6 billion creating an ICT trade deficit of $20.9 billion - an increase of six per cent over the $19.7 billion trade deficit for 2005.
Authored by Professor John Houghton, the report highlights areas that Australia's governments and ICT industry stakeholders must support to enhance Australia's competitive advantages and improve the ICT Trade Performance.
Areas covered include education, skills, communications infrastructure and the development of local capabilities.
ACS president Philip Argy said while globalisation makes shifts in ICT consumption patterns an inevitable reality, the challenge for Australian industry and policy makers is to elevate the technology debate and to take a more 'fine grained' view of local capabilities and competitive advantages.
"We can't turn the clock back on globalisation, and this means that production of goods and services will continue to become fragmented and geographically dispersed," Argy said.
"However this is as much an opportunity as a threat, and the door is wide open for the Australian technology industry to become a force of global significance in high level knowledge based areas.
"This cannot be achieved while we continue to view the technology sector as isolated in the economic landscape."
Argy said the world is contronting a technology revolution with impacts more rapid and more profound than the industrial revolution.
"As a nation we have the option of being a passenger or a driver of that change. The ACS believes there is potential for our nation to play a leadership role - with some significant economic benefits," he said.
"This is not something that individuals or organisations working in isolation can achieve given the strength of the partnerships in place within industry and between government and the commercial sector in competing countries.
"Without a conducive environment, innovation in the industry will be lacking, which will affect our competitiveness.
"The Australian Government in collaboration with the ICT industry needs to set a vision, a challenge for industry and then put regulation and programs into place that will support industry to achieve that vision."
The ACS is currently developing a 10 year ICT strategy and policy framework for the federal government and all states and territory governments to consider.
It will be released in coming weeks and will address on-shoring opportunities, ICT exports, joint programs and R&D.
Director of the ACS Economic and Industry Policy Board Ian Dennis said Australia's current and future economic growth depends on, and correlates with, innovative technology development and innovative use of existing technologies.